Fort William, Scotland
Fort William, located in Lochaber in the West Highlands, is often described as the ‘Outdoor Capital of the UK’. With many beautiful landmarks nearby, it is has become a base for those keen on hillwalking, hiking and mountain biking. Located on the eastern shore of Loch Linnhe, there is much to explore around Fort William and thanks to the high level of rainfall, the scenery surrounding the town is beautifully verdant and rugged. As well as the wilderness to explore, there are interesting historical monuments dotted around Fort William, including a great museum and a couple of impressive castles. After Inverness, it is the second largest settlement in the whole of the Scottish Highlands. From Edinburgh or Glasgow, the journey takes between three and five hours depending whether you have your own vehicle or are taking public transport.
What to See in Fort William
Many people come to Fort William to visit the tallest mountain in the British Isles, Ben Nevis. Standing at 1,345 metres tall, the mountain attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year, seeking to climb its slopes. The most commonly used ascent route was constructed in 1883, known as the Pony Track. While it is not a difficult ascent, it should not be undertaken with some preparation. It can snow at the summit, regardless of the season, so as well as hiking boots you will need warm clothing, waterproofs, food and water and a map and compass. It should take around four or five hours to reach the summit and another two to three to descend but the views of the beautiful landscape and the taste of the fresh mountain air will be worth it. The most popular departure point for hiking is at the Ben Nevis Visitor Centre, a four-minute drive from Fort William’s centre.
For those who are not so keen on hiking, you can enjoy the views of Ben Nevis on a Nevis Range Mountain Gondola. The gondola is a one of kind in Britain, reaching heights of 650m. It is built into the north face of Aonach Mòr, the 8th highest mountain in Britain. From the gondola, passengers have a stunning panoramic view of the highlands and the mist-shrouded peak of Ben Nevis and, sometimes on a clear day, the Isle of Skye in the distance.
Also just outside Fort William are the ruins of the 13th-century Old Inverlochy Castle. It was one of the most important castles in Scottish history being the site of two important battles (the first and second Battle of Inverlochy). Although it is now a ruin, the castle is unique because it has remained unaltered since it was built in the reign of King Alexander III, King of Scots from 1249 until his death. It sits on the River Lochy at the entrance to the Great Glen, a key passage through the Scottish Highlands. Inverlochy Castle is free to visit and open year-round.
However, it should not be confused with Inverlochy Castle Hotel, a 19th-century Baronial mansion built by William Scarlett, Baron Abinger. Queen Victoria spent a week at the mansion in 1873. The house and estate with transformed into a luxury hotel in the mid-20th century. Some famous guests include King Hussein of Jordan, Mel Gibson, Liam Neeson, and Sean Connery. You can visit the tranquil surroundings of the mansion without being a guest and enjoy a meal or afternoon tea in the castle.